GUATEMALA / República de Guatemala


IndexAmericas → Caribbean, Middle / Central AmericaGuatemala / República de Guatemala




Cowgill and Hutchinson (1963)[1] (as cited by DeMause, 1989)[2] reported that all the girls were very flirtatious with the grown men, often overtly sexual even as very young girls. When they looked for the reasons why, they found a very high boy/girl ratio and noticed that girls were regularly allowed to die off - through giving them less food and by other neglect - if they did not appeal sexually to the men around them.

In Guatemala, 9.0% of males and 2.6% had their first sexual intercourse at age 12 or below (Herold et al., 1988)[3]. Mean ages were 16.7 (F) and 14.8 (M).

Redfield (1943 [1970:p291])[4] notes that, within a pattern of casual and unsystematic education typical of the rural Landino, “[s]ome parents will select a serious and special moment in which they convey sex instruction […]”. Traditionally, San Pedro girls, “as in much of native Middle America, were carefully supervised from the time they reached puberty; they could make direct contact with marriageable boys only by devious means. The sexes were separated early in childhood […]” (Paul and Paul, 1963:p134)[5].

Wagley[6] documents that most boys of twelve or thirteen years of age have a special male friend or companion called tukl-haj in Mam) of approximately their own age; this is interrupted by (early) marriage. “There is obviously a warm personal attachment between two companions, but all of my informants denied that it ever became an overt sexual relationship. In fact, one of the main activities of the two companions is to arrange sexual encounters with women” acting as go-betweens (p35-7). They have to because


“[g]irls are warned by their parents when they are ten or eleven years old to stay away from youths and older men. […] Daughters must be protected so they will be virgins at marriage, and the one reason for the early marriages in Chimaltenango is to be certain that the young wife is a virgin. Only when a girl is not married by the time she is sixteen or seventeen is the vigilance of her parents relaxed enough to give her the opportunity to indulge in a premarital affair. […] When young girls of thirteen or fourteen years of age do have pre-marital sex experience, it is through seduction by an older man”.


Marriages between ten or eleven (boys), and for girls preferably a year earlier, are considered “excellent “because they grow up together” ” (p37). “If the couple is already adolescent at marriage, intercourse does generally take place as soon as they have moved to the husband’s father’s house. When the girl is a virgin, she usually resists her young husband “until she learns” ” (p40-1).


 Additional refs:


§         Bertrand, J. T., Ward, V. & Pauc, F. (1991-2) Sexual practices among the Quiche-speaking Mayan population of Guatemala, Int Quart Community Health Educ 12,4:265-82

§         Caballeros, M. E. (1993) Niñas y adolescentes prostituidas: caso Guatemala. UNICEF/Childhope/Pronice, Guatemala

§         CRLP (1997) Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Lives: Latin America and the Caribbean, p108-25. Also id., Progress Report, 2000, p46-53

§         Herrera, Rovinson (2004) “'La Maldad:' Sexual Exploitation of Minors in Bourbon Guatemala”. ASE (American Society for Ethnohistory) Annual Meeting, Chicago, MartPlaza, October 27-31, 2004

§         Tumax, L. & Morales, V. (1988) Diagnóstico situacional de las niñas y adolescentes de y en la calle de la cuidad de Guatemala. Childhope Guatemala




Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: May 2005


[1] Cowgill, U. M. & Hutchinson, G.E. (1963) Sex Ratio in Childhood and the Depopulation of the Peten, Guatemala, Human Biol 35:90-104

[2] DeMause, L. (1989) The role of adaptation and selection in psychohistorical evolution, J Psychohist 16,4:355-71

[3] Herold, J. M., Monterroso, Eu., Morris, L., Castellanos, G., Conde, A. & Spitz, A. (1988) Sexual Experience and Contraceptive Use Among Young Adults in Guatemala City, Int Fam Plann Perspect 14,4:142-6+158. See also Morris, L. (1988) Young Adults in Latin America and the Caribbean: Their Sexual Experience and Contraceptive Use, Int Fam Plann Perspect 14,4:153-8

[4] Redfield, R. (1943) Culture and education in the Midwestern Highlands of Guatemala, Am J Sociol 48:640-8. Reprinted in Middleton, J. (Ed., 1970) From Child to Adult. New York: Natural History Press, p287-300

[5] Paul, L. & Paul, B. D. (1963) Changing marriage patterns in a Highland Guatemalan community, Southwest J Anthropol 19,2:131-48

[6] Wagley, Ch. (1949) The Social and Religious Life of a Guatemalan Village. American Anthropological Association